OK, here are a few more thoughts on Christians and materialism. The subject is huge, and perhaps I will post a bit more on it over the coming weeks. I must admit I have felt a bit of a hypocrite as I spent a good amount of time this week wondering whether I should buy this and this (and to be honest, a good few other bits and pieces too).
Perhaps we would be better at not falling into materialistic ways of thinking if we were a bit more wise to some of the mentalities that cause us to part with our money. I mentioned two in my previous post, and here’s two more I have noticed – one for people who like to save money, and one for people who love to spend it.
The bargain hunter
How often have I heard my wife say “I saved £50 today”? As I take great pains to point out, she did not in fact “save” money, she spent it. But somehow we get this trick pulled on us all the time. Of course, there are occasions when we genuinely can save money while spending it. If we had planned and budgeted to buy a particular thing, and then it unexpectedly is available at a cheaper price then we have made a saving. We feel really pleased when this happens. The trouble is, we are duped into thinking it has happened more often than it has.
A classic example is when something that we would not have bought at that time, (but would have done or wanted to in the future), comes on special offer. We buy on the spot, and treat this as a “saving”. However, if we resist the temptation to impulse buy, we often find that we can make do without it for quite some time, and quite probably discover an even better offer closer to the time when we really need it.
The compulsive spender
The marketing people have always hated times when it is not possible for people to spend money. The reason we have Sunday trading after many years of it being illegal is because nowadays it is unthinkable that people should have to survive a day without shopping. But what about night-time? Or while you are at work or out in the countryside? How can you spend money then?
Well the marketing people have a solution – this is where the internet, TV shopping and mobile phones come in. If you make it possible for people to spend 24/7 then they will. I quite often go a week or more without entering a shop, but I’m on the internet every day. Only “one click” and I’ve bought another commentary! Some people take their mobile phones with them everywhere, and since they have them, the temptation to use them is unavoidable. A walk in the countryside or a drive in the car and they have spent £10 on calls.
Lead us not into temptation
Both the “saver” and the “spender” will let go of far more of their money than they wanted to because they can’t avoid the places of temptation. “This bargain is too good to be missed”. “Let me just check if Amazon have got a special offer on anything on my wishlist”. Whatever the exact meaning of the phrase “lead us not into temptation” (Matt 6:13), it is fairly clear that our best intentions to be wise stewards of our money will be thwarted if we constantly put ourselves in situations where we know we are likely to frivolously spend.
I know some friends who don’t use credit/debit cards at all. They simply withdraw their spending money for the month in cash and when its gone its gone. Solutions like that might seem a bit radical (well actually inconvenient), but how serious are we about controlling our spending? Do we really want to spend less so we can give more? Or if truth be told, is our desire to give actually much weaker than our desire to get? Perhaps we don’t really believe that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)